It didn’t happen in the best fashion, but Hand girls’ basketball claimed a title for itself in a loss.
The Tigers scored a 65-43 road win on Feb. 4 at SCC Hammonasset Division opponent Hillhouse before a 58-39 home triumph over East Haven on Feb. 6 prior to a 48-44 loss to Foran the next night to move to 14-5 and 6-1 in division action. Despite the loss, by virtue of Hillhouse defeating Law on Feb. 7, the Tigers clinched their first division crown since 2007.
“Winning our division is a really big deal and has been a goal of mine since I became head coach at Hand,” said Head Coach Tim Tredwell. “The kids are really excited to get a banner in the gym because they know it puts them in some elite company. The SCC is such a tough conference and to have your team listed among the best of is a testament to all the hard work these kids has put in. I'm very proud of this group and all they've accomplished. Hopefully this is just the first step in a series of big things to come for our program.”
At Hillhouse, Sophie Joel led the Tigers with 17 points, while Lily Taylor chipped in 12 points on four three-pointers. Lauren Brandau added 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and Cassidy Wygonik and Gege Catalano combined for 11 points and 27 rebounds. Cori Ouellette added eight points on a pair of threes, plus Gillian Kraemer had six assists.
Versus Hillhouse, Brandau (6 points) and Taylor (6 points on two three-pointers) led Hand to a 17-11 first-quarter lead, but the Tigers scuffled a bit in the second quarter, scoring just nine points in the second quarter (7 from Sophie Joel), allowing the Academics to close the gap to 26-21 at the half. Hillhouse upped the pressure in the second half and used its speed to get the lead down to three late in the third before Hand's offense woke up, closing the quarter on a 12-0 run to take a 46-31 lead into the final frame. Once again, Taylor came up big with a pair of late threes, while Wygonik scored all six of her points during the run. In the fourth quarter, seven different Tigers’ players put points on the board as Hand grabbed the victory.
Against the Yellowjackets, Joel led the Tigers with 24 points, five assists, three rebounds, and three steals, and Taylor tallied nine points, five steals, and three blocks. Catalano totaled up eight points and eight boards, Wygonik chipped in six points, six rebounds, and seven blocks, plus Kraemer dished out five assists. Hand shot 49 percent from the floor as a team. Against Foran, Taylor led the Tigers with 12 points, and Joel scored eight first-half points before going out with a concussion, as Hand was 3-of-6 from the foul line.
The loss ended a triumphant run by the Tigers that saw them go 14-2 after their 0-2 start to the campaign, yet Tredwell is proud of that feat and optimistic for his club’s future playoff push.
“This has been a difficult week. To have three games in four days with no practice [due to snow] is a nightmare. Kids have no time to recover or prepare, and it will eventually catch up to them,” said Tredwell. “We had a great run during this winning streak where we played some of the best ball we ever have. I continue to be impressed by these kids as they fought back tonight [versus Foran] even when things weren't going their way. When one of your leaders goes down, it's easy to hang your head and make excuses, but that's not what this team does. Now we'll finally get a couple days of practice, so we can make some adjustments, and we can come back focused and ready to make another run.”